Father found not guilty of raping teenage chess champion daughter

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The father of a teenage chess prodigy who fell to her death from a hotel window has been cleared of repeatedly raping her.

Ian Gilbert denied his daughter Jessica's claims that he forced her to have sex with him in her bedroom at the family home in Woldingham, Surrey, when she was nine years old. She told police that he raped her repeatedly until she was 13.

Jessica died this year, aged 19, when she fell from an eighth-floor hotel room in Pardubice, in the Czech Republic, where she had been taking part in an international chess tournament.

A jury at Guildford Crown Court, in Surrey, found the 49-year-old not guilty of all charges of rape. They also cleared him of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault on other people. Mr Gilbert remained impassive as the verdict was read out.

His new wife Sally was in court to hear her husband cleared.

The court heard that Jessica, a talented chess player who represented Britain in the game, was a troubled and anxious child.

Family members, including her grandfather Alan, said that they found the exceptionally clever youngster "detached".

But after Mr Gilbert and Jessica had a row about him using her laptop, his relationship with Jessica's mother collapsed and they divorced.

It was only after her father finally moved out of the family home that Jessica told her mother that he had raped her.

Mr Gilbert denied all the charges against him and said he had no idea why his daughter would hate him enough to make false rape allegations.

He said she had been playing a "game of chess" against him and carefully plotting a "battle strategy" to take revenge against him after they fell out over the laptop. He told the jury that he found the accusations "disgusting" and had never had sexual thoughts about his daughter.

On a New Year's Eve night out at the end of 2003, she went out with friends and got drunk.

She climbed a wall at Croydon's clock tower and threatened to jump off before her friends dragged her down. It was then that she told them the reason she wanted to die was because her father had raped her.

The following year she got very drunk and again told friends that she had been raped.

This time her friends took her home and told her mother what Jessica had said. She then confronted her daughter, who said it was true.

The following day she took an overdose of paracetamol but later recovered. She fell to her death in July this year, shortly before her father's trial was originally due to start, having been postponed from an original January start date.

The trial was postponed again to allow the family to grieve and Jessica's funeral to take place and it finally began in November.

The jury saw videotaped police interviews, recorded in July 2004 when Jessica was 17. She claims her father started getting "too touchy" when she was about eight.

Just before a family holiday in Cornwall, she said he crept into her bedroom, put his hand over her mouth and raped her.

She said he continued to rape her over a period of five years and she could remember nine rapes in all.